As the fashion retail industry gets ready for Drapers Digital Festival, some of the keynote speakers share their tactics for improving customer engagement.
Ian Dewar, director of customer lifecycle and analytics, The North Face
What has The North Face focused on to improve customer engagement?
Our goal is to show customers more products that they will actually use. We have made our messaging more relevant for customers based on what we think they are doing, not what we want to sell to them.
We look at what emails they open, what they look at on our website and what events of ours they attend, rather than just what they buy, and then we buy third-party data such as more general web browsing data.
We split our products into four categories and create content specifically for those. We then score shoppers against those categories so we can show them the content they are interested in via paid social or personalised emails.
We also use our VIPeak loyalty card to get better customer identity data, particularly from stores, and to deliver personalised rewards. A more personalised website is a big priority this year.
What is the secret behind creating a great online customer engagement message?
Relevance and authenticity. People are more likely to spend when you talk about things they are interested in. Sometimes brands create a hierarchy of three to five products they want to sell, then spend a lot of money and time trying to sell them without thinking that maybe no one wants them.
Also, don’t try to drive shoppers to a specific channel – let them choose to go wherever they want. Think about how you can make it easier for shoppers to move between channels with the same price and user benefits.
Grégoire Baret, general manager of omnichannel experience, Aldo Group
What do shoppers expect from retailers online?
The first is website speed. Make sure your site is as fast as possible across all devices and bandwidths, and works for different types of people such as those who are visually impaired.
The second is continuity. Enable shoppers to start shopping with you anywhere and be able to follow that up on different devices. We use wishlists that can be accessed across devices, and allow you to see which items are available in store and request to try them on. Customers expect to be able to connect with stores: 70% of our store shoppers go online to prepare for their visit.
Third, you need humanity. Make sure you enable shoppers to connect with human beings to get advice. And the checkout should not be robotic – instead, present content in a human, easy and engaging way.
What are the potential pitfalls when redesigning your online customer experience?
When doing a redesign you have to sweat the details such as transitions, copy, animations and images. They all affect the amount of time people spend on the website and their likelihood to convert. It has to be completely seamless.
But don’t focus too much on convenience. Your brand is all about the soul and mentality, and that needs to be reflected. Almost 30% of our online shoppers land on a product page, not the homepage. These can be the most generic and unbranded pages, so you need to make them reflect the brand – inject some experience and personality there.
What do retailers need to be designing and implementing online now to stay one step ahead?
The future will be more local, including better communication with stores to improve continuity of experience. We are looking to build new layers of service – to reserve products, have a more personal experience, use equipment in store – all to add to the experience. It will also be more personal, based on shoppers’ preferences and giving them comfort that they will see what they want first.
Steve Zades, vice-president of global innovation, VF Corporation
Talk us through your Lee Body Optix technology
We have the fusion of designers, artists and scientists in other industries, for example at Apple and Tesla. That doesn’t happen as readily in clothing. But Lee’s Body Optix denim line was born from this fusion and a vision to redefine the shape and contours of the human body. It’s about how you want to look and being able to customise that. We wanted to make denimwear that was more inclusive so it would suit a wider range of body types, while also creating a few essential jeans garments that would form the cornerstones of the womenswear wardrobe. It uses an algorithm to calculate a pattern that is applied on to the fabric via laser technology, creating optical effects and illusions that make the body appear a different shape, such as lengthening legs or changing the contours of the hips and thighs.
It was launched in Asia in late 2016 and showed at London Fashion Week in September. [The 20-piece collection will go on sale for the first time in the western hemisphere at Selfridges on 28 March. Prices will range from £130 to £170.]
What is the future for customised products?
This is the fourth manufacturing revolution: digital design, digital production and customisation. What you want is clothing properly made just for you to suit your size and self-expression, and the technology is racing to provide that.
The car industry is changing in this area already. There’s a whole infrastructure being build on this new model. Once the process becomes fully digital, it will be more democratic and available to all brands.
It’s much more cost effective and sustainable to have automation throughout the process and robotics, so you can move information and designs anywhere around the world. It’s coming very quickly, but there will need to be a lot of innovative partnerships in both large and small companies for it to work. If we can anticipate what customers want and allow them to be part of the cycle, adding elements themselves, we will have fantastic success.
Drapers Digital Festival
To hear more from Dewar, Baret and Zades at the Drapers Digital Festival in London on 26 April, alongside talks from JD.com’s head of the new Paris office Florent Courau, Ralph Lauren’s senior vice-president of digital commerce international, Valeria Juarez, and Mark Felix, John Lewis’ss director of online trade, book your place now